This is a wonderful attempt to look at the century and a quarter of the world of Books,Bookstores,Booksellers,Book Buyers,Rare Book Collectors,Just Plain Avid Readers,The Normal as well as the Eccentric;but all Bibliophiles in one form or another; and what took place in Book Row of New York.What an amazing world it was, and a world that we are not likely to see again. While a street or section occupied by bookstores is not unique to New York,this was one of the most famous in the world. There still places where there are collections of bookstores,even some "Book Villages" that have a nostalgic ring to what Boor Row was,;but Book Row ,and all involved, was the real thing.
Most of what is talked about in this book went on long before my time as an avid reader,but I can still appreciate what a thrill it must have been to be a regular visitor to this place.
I think that the real value in reading this book is to see how greatly the whole experience of buying and selling of books,be they new,used,rare,expensive,cheap,or whatever;has changed so much and so quickly.About 25 or so years ago,when I seriously searched out books for my collection ,I visited literally hundreds of bookstores,particularly the Used & Rare ,and encountered a wide array of stores and sellers,and what a thrill to find a store that I had never been in;and find a new "treasure".Even when not finding anything,the bookseller and the store was still an experience.
However;what I used to call "going book sailing" is nothing what it used to be and many of the stores I used to haunt are "gone with the wind".I guess for the same reasons as with Book Row. The rents kept rising,buildings were demolished for highrises and condos,the Booksellers became old and didn't change with the rapidly changing world of books,the newer sellers who entered the trade have become a totally different breed,the Internet has changed everything and made an unbelievably amount of books and information about books available to any Book Lover,regardless of where he lives or what means are at his disposal.So,one by one the conventional bookstores have just withered and faded away.The price of gas has also made it expensive to run around the country to various bookstores.
The publishers are still churning out massive numbers of new titles ,reissues and books at such a rate that there are books everywhere,and at prices that vary all over the map;both for new and used books. For instance,many charities and university alumni groups have seen where they can obtain unlimited amounts of donations of books of every type and along with them lots of volunteers to sort,price and sell them to raise funds.These sales attract huge crowds,who make excellent finds. The curious thing is that a lot of the small time dealers are there scooping up books to sell on the Internet,at obviously much higher prices,and have become the buyers competitor rather than friend.In this book, the authors allude to the fact that many of the booksellers couldn't or wouldn't change and learn to buy and sell ,or otherwise,merchandise their books to retain their customers. The charities and others,changed the whole game,and greatly to the benefit of the buyers.If that wasn't a great enough deathnell;the Internet makes virtually any book one wants ,readily available at whatever,cost,rarity ,condition,etc. the buyer desires.No longer is it a matter of 'take what I got, at my price,or Good Luck".So,this book sure shows what the book world used to be;and what a wonderful world it was;but all that is a thing of the past.
Of all the great quotes you'll find in this book,and there are many;I think the quote that is most apropos is by someone who is not even a bookseller,book buyer or any kind of a Bibliophile ,and is found on page 365.
"Considering the long-ago past and eras that are gone with the wind on wings of time will seem a waste to those who dismiss ancient history as "weary,stale,flat and unprofitable." Baseball manager Sparky Anderson pointed out the futility of living in the past: "There's no future in it." A New York book dealer,quoted by the "New York Times" (May 31,1981),...and that was over 25 years ago...doubted the existence of serious interest among contemporary booksellers in the vanished shops of Fourth Avenue,which were no longer revalent to the needs and problems of modern bookstores: Those who remember them don't want to be reminded,and those who don't,won't care.It's like talking about a five-cent sandwich.No one knows what you are talking about."
Bibliophiles should give a big clap and thanks,to Marvin Mondlin and Roy Meador for bringing Book Row to those who have to be resolved with,"oh well,it was before my time,and so was the 25-cent bleacher seat and the 5-cent soda".